Tampa Bay’s legendary 2002 defense was loaded with star power from the likes of NFL Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, defensive end Simeon Rice up front, to cornerback Ronde Barber and strong safety John Lynch in the secondary. Yet it was free safety Dexter Jackson who was named Super Bowl XXXVII MVP after two first half interceptions that helped key a 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders.

The unheralded Jackson is one of seven Super Bowl MVPs that never made a Pro Bowl – eight if you count Desmond Howard, who didn’t make the Pro Bowl as a kick returner years after being the Super Bowl XXXI MVP with Green Bay.

Redskins QB Doug Williams XXII
Cowboys CB Larry Brown XXX
Packers KR Desmond Howard XXXI
Buccaneers FS Dexter Jackson XXXVII
Patriots WR Deion Branch XXXVIII
Steelers WR Santonio Holmes XLIII
Ravens QB Joe Flacco XLVII
Seahawks LB Malcolm Smith

Bucs Super Bowl XXXVII MVP FS Dexter Jackson

Bucs Super Bowl XXXVII MVP FS Dexter Jackson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

That is such a small number of non-star players considering that there have been 55 Super Bowl MVPs (Cowboys defensive linemen Harvey Martin and Randy White were co-MVPs in Super Bowl XIII) over the last 54 years. Typically the Super Bowl MVP is a superstar player who is destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Quarterbacks have dominated the award, winning MVP honors 29 times, including four repeat winners – Tom Brady (4), Joe Montana (3), Terry Bradshaw (2) and Bart Starr (2).

So who might the dark horse Super Bowl MVP be for the Buccaneers should Tampa Bay beat defending champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in Super Bowl LV? Who might be the next Dexter Jackson in Tampa Bay if it doesn’t go to a Bucs star player?

For this exercise all players that have made a Pro Bowl have been eliminated from this discussion. That includes Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on offense, and outside linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and linebacker Lavonte David on defense.

Here are five semi-star names to consider for the Super Bowl MVP should Tampa Bay beat Kansas City.

CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

Why not Murphy-Bunting? With an interception against Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay in three straight weeks he’s already tied the Bucs’ career franchise record for postseason interceptions with Donnie Abraham, Dexter Jackson and Dwight Smith. Murphy-Bunting and Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed are the only players in NFL history with an interception in their first three postseason appearances.

A key interception, a clutch-pick six or two INTs could do it, especially since picking off Patrick Mahomes, who has only thrown six interceptions in 2020 and just 11 in the past two regular seasons. It’s rare for defensive backs to be named the Super Bowl MVP. In fact, it’s only happened three times in 54 years, but Murphy-Bunting is on a hot streak during the postseason.

ILB Devin White

Bucs LB Devin White

Bucs LB Devin White – Photo by: USA Today

White missed the first round of the playoffs due to COVID-19, but has made up for it in the last two rounds of the postseason. He had 11 tackles, a key fumble recovery and his first interception of the year against New Orleans to help knock off the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs. In last week’s win at Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, White had another big fumble recovery that led to a touchdown, in addition to a season-high 15 tackles.

White is the Bucs’ big-time playmaker on defense and he’s as hot as Murphy-Bunting is. A couple of sacks, a few takeaways – maybe a pick-six a la Derrick Brooks in Super Bowl XXXVII – along with 10 tackles or more could make White the first linebacker since Seattle’s Malcolm Smith to win the Super Bowl MVP, and just the second ever to accomplish that feat.

RB Leonard Fournette

Fournette has only started six games this year in Tampa Bay, including all three playoff games, but he’s been nearly as productive in January as he was during the regular season. Fournette rushed for 367 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 3.8 yards per carry in 13 games during the regular season while splitting time with the team’s leading rusher, Ronald Jones II. In the postseason, Fournette has rushed for 211 yards and two scores, while averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

Fournette has also caught 14 passes for 102 yards (7.3 avg.) and a TD, and has a touchdown – rushing or receiving – in all three playoff games as a result. Fournette would have to have a 100-yard rushing day and a game-winning touchdown or multiple TDs throughout the game in order to win the MVP, but Playoff Lenny is hot right now.

CB Carlton Davis III

Talk about a redemption story. How about Davis going from getting torched for over 200 yards and three touchdowns by Tyreek Hill in the first match-up in Week 12 to winning the Super Bowl MVP with a much better showing in the rematch? That’s storybook stuff.

Davis led the Bucs with four interceptions but those came in the first eight weeks of the season. He hasn’t had an INT since the win over the Giants game on Monday Night Football on November 2. It’s time for Davis to break his 11-game drought, and if he gets a pair of picks or a timely pick-six while helping to shut down Hill he might just take home the individual hardware from the Super Bowl.

WR Scotty Miller

Bucs WR Scotty Miller

Bucs WR Scotty Miller – Photo by: USA Today

Miller’s 39-yard touchdown catch right before halftime of the NFC Championship Game helped the Bucs build a 21-10 lead. While not as significant as Ronde Barber’s 92-yard pick-six in the 2002 NFC Championship Game, Miller’s big, diving grab is just as dramatic as Joe Jurevicius’ 71-yard catch-and-run against Philadelphia that day. And Miller gets extra credit for scoring.

It would take another dramatic touchdown like that – plus 100-yard receiving day – for Miller to take him the Super Bowl MVP honors, but this kid has a flair for the dramatic. He’s already said he’s faster than “The Cheetah” Tyreek Hill. Who knows? It could be Miller Time on the biggest stage of all come Sunday – but he will need a lot of touches and that might not happen if Antonio Brown plays.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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plopes808
5 months ago

My money is on White and/or David, they’ll be responsible for helping stuff the run and keeping Kelce in check. When we win, they will be a big reason why

Buc4eva
5 months ago

I would add Add Antoine Winfield Jr. to the list assuming he plays!

Spitfire
5 months ago

No Offense to Dexter Jackson but Brooks should have won the MVP. Something about they vote at half time and Brooks 2nd INT came in the second half or something. All I remember is Brooks finished with a better game and should have gotten it but the voting is done earlier which is stupid. They should wait until the game is over before they pick.

Donkey_Hunter
Reply to  Spitfire
5 months ago

What do you mean “Brooks 2nd INT”?

He had one pick.

SOXX
Reply to  Spitfire
5 months ago

You mean CB Dwight Smith with 2 pick – sixes.

scubog
Reply to  Spitfire
5 months ago

As far as I’m concerned Simeon Rice should have been the MVP. He’s the one who set the tone and rattled Rich Gannon.

Lawdy
5 months ago

LVD LVD LVD

seat26
5 months ago

I am hoping to see a lot of Vita Vea and Shaq Barrett. If we do, that means our secondary will have plenty of picks. I hope ROJO plays and has a huge day, hopefully with Wirfs road grading in front of him. Brady going to 10 Superbowls gives us an advantage.

Billy
5 months ago

What’s odd to me is to my knowledge we haven’t run a trick play this year.
Pretty sure KC will run a few this game with Hill as eye candy back there.

I think that pitch to Godwin for the game sealing win would be a great one if it included a pass to Evans or AB over the top at the end.

Here’s hoping we see a trick play work for Tampa in the SB.

GrayBalls
Reply to  Billy
5 months ago

Trick plays are fun, but only necessary when the opposition starts to figure you out. Hopefully Lefty can be creative enough to keep them on their toes and we’re able to control the clock. If we are to have a chance at keeping the Lombardi in Tampa, it will come by keeping the ball away from Mahomes as much as possible

nybuccguy
5 months ago

Vita Vea and Rojo are my longshot MVP picks

fredster
5 months ago

Ok I’ll guess here. Last time played Chiefs Davis was smoked like a Thanksgiving turkey. Not his fault though as they kept matching him 1 on 1 with guys much faster. Vea isn’t still going to be 100%.
On defense I’d say White or David. Winfield maybe too if 100%. Bunting would be 3rd or 4th to me but he has been hot lately for sure with int’s. Dean with his speed could maybe get into mix too.
On offense Rojo might go off he’s rested or Scotty Miller could get behind defense 2-3 times for some TD’s.
Go Bucs!

Last edited 5 months ago by fredster
DT25
5 months ago

My vote for a true dark horse is RoJo. He’s been the forgotten man in the playoffs and he’s still the best true runner on this team. The Chiefs run defense is bad bad. Lenny will also get his for his receiving. But if RoJo is running strong, I expect us to use him quite a bit too. We will want to run the ball to keep the Chiefs offense off the field, so a good game for RoJo would be great for this team. It would also mean we’re not constantly playing from behind…which we need to avoid if… Read more »

drdneast
5 months ago

I like the list. A lot of good solid talent on it which is one of the reasons the Bucs are in SB.

surferdudes
5 months ago

I can see a defensive player as MVP. Bunting would need a couple of picks, doubtful with Mahomes. Shaq, and JPP have a good shot if they get sacks, with game changing turnovers. Miller won’t get enough looks for MVP, but we have receivers who do. I’m going to put my money on Brady as MVP. I think that would be poetic justice, since no one has mentioned him as league MVP.

bucballer
5 months ago

I like Brady, Evans, White in that order for MVP.

SOXX
5 months ago

27 RoJo show.

scubog
5 months ago

What’s refreshing is that the Bucs have quite a few players who have an opportunity to stand out in this game. Just having the game’s MVP should mean the Bucs won the game. If I had to predict, I’m going with Devin White. Others may contribute, but #45 will be the one to get noticed.